Chart: China’s offshore wind frenzy drove recent record global growth

Eighty percent of the world’s new offshore wind capacity was installed in China last year, and the country is expected to dominate the sector for years to come.
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Canary Media’s chart of the week translates crucial data about the clean energy transition into a visual format.

Of the thousands of offshore wind turbines installed last year, the vast majority were in Chinese waters. In 2021, China’s offshore wind boom drove a threefold surge in new installations worldwide, and though the frenzy is expected to slow this year, the country is still on track to lead the world in offshore wind development for at least the next decade, according to two recent reports.

China connected nearly 17 gigawatts of new offshore wind capacity to its grid last year, equal to 80 percent of the 21.1 gigawatts connected worldwide, the Global Wind Energy Council said in its latest report. That brings China’s cumulative offshore wind capacity to more than 26 gigawatts — just under half the world’s cumulative capacity.

Until recently, Europe led the world in offshore wind installations, with most turbines spinning off the coast of the U.K. China installed its first offshore turbine in 2007, a single 1.5-megawatt machine on an oil platform in the northeastern Bohai Sea. Three years later, the country commissioned its first commercial offshore project, marking China’s earliest appearance on the chart above.

China’s offshore wind development began to escalate soon after the government enacted a feed-in tariff in 2014. The subsidy offered 850 yuan ($134) for every megawatt-hour the wind farms supplied to the electric grid. The catch, though, was that new offshore wind farms had to be completed before January 1, 2022. All subsequent projects would earn less money for their electricity output.

That deadline spurred the rush of new offshore wind projects in China. This year, the country’s total installations are expected to fall by several gigawatts due to the policy change, BloombergNEF said in its latest wind report, though rising installations in the U.K. and Taiwan may soften the drop” globally. Still, China is expected to add more offshore wind power annually than any other country through at least 2035, the last year covered in the report’s forecasts.

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Maria Gallucci is a clean energy reporter at Canary Media, where she covers hard-to-decarbonize sectors and efforts to make the energy transition more affordable and equitable.

Maria Virginia Olano is editorial producer at Canary Media.